The endoscopic placement of percutaneous gastrostomy tubes has been an accepted technique for several years but has traditionally been performed by gastroenterologists and general surgeons. Fluoroscopically guided tube placement is now performed by radiologists. Head and neck surgeons have been slow to adopt the responsibility for placing percutaneous gastrostomy tubes despite the fact that most are proficient in both rigid and flexible esophagoscopy and trained in the Seldinger technique. We report on 41 percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomies performed in 39 patients by the Head and Neck Service at Stanford Medical Center between July 1, 1992, and August 30, 1995. There were 28 (71.8%) male and 11 (28.2%) female patients. Eleven (28.2%) procedures were performed in patients at the time of major head and neck resections. Another seven (17.9%) patients underwent percutaneous gastrostomy tube placement at the time of their initial staging panendoscopy before receiving chemotherapy and radiation. Fifteen (38.5%) procedures were performed for severe postsurgical dysphagia. Six (15.4%) patients had neurologic dysfunction, and this procedure was often performed in conjunction with tracheostomy. There were no major complications. Two patients had to undergo intraoperative tube replacement at 7 months and 18 months for chronic infection and tube damage, respectively. The only other complication was local irritation at the surgical site, which occurred in 2 (5.1%) patients. Our experience with percutaneous gastrostomy tube placement confirms that this is a procedure that can be safely performed by head and neck surgeons and should be part of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery training. The ability to provide comprehensive care of head and neck cancer patients as well as a means of supplemental feeding in conjunction with performing tracheostomy in neurologically impaired patients will no doubt improve the service that our specialty can provide.
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